Candid Comment: Gono Controversy and Firing Squad

US president Barack Obama has so far stuck to his electoral script on foreign policy: a tough military approach in Afghanistan, tough-talking with Israel and a positive conversation with the Muslim world.


North Korea’s nuclear antics make a necessity of the uneasy relationship with Russia and China. He keeps a distant reconnaissance over Africa where cash is the preferred weapon.

So far it is not clear that the increased army in northern Afghanistan will achieve as spectacular a result as Pakistan has done in the past two weeks of military offensive against the Taliban and other militants in the Swat Valley; Iraq is bound to remain as problematic as Afghanistan while Israel exploits its stranglehold over American politics to do as it pleases –– which is to be stubbornly opposed to the two-state concept in Palestine.

Not even the name Robert Mugabe poses enough threat to warrant his personal scrutiny in Southern Africa. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a recent interview,  was forced to say “it was in the best interest of everyone” for Mugabe to go after a desperate reporter pressed her on whether the US would “like to see President Mugabe go first before you can come in?”

PM Morgan Tsvangirai was not so indulgent when put under similar pressure over the appointments of Johannes Tomana and Gideon Gono and claims of fresh farm invasions. “We can’t all be preoccupied with Gono and Tomana at the expense of all the issues that the country is facing,” he retorted. He said “so-called farm invasions” had been “blown out of proportion”.

“He is behaving like Mugabe,” was the loaded epithet from a betrayed white farmer.

Compared to Finance minister Tendai Biti’s attitude towards Gono, Tsvangirai’s brusque response is not only tame and elegant but his attitude the antithesis of Biti’s. Since coming face to face with the reality of office, Tsvangirai appears to have adopted “quiet diplomacy” as his modus operandi, much to the chagrin of those who believe they control him.

To Biti Gono is the ultimate evil –– the al qaeda who should at the very least be “ring-fenced” from normal society.

Otherwise he should face a firing squad. It’s all got a chilling effect, especially when one considers that those who had the weapons and training to shoot their way into State House in 1980 were less vulgar in their words. You sense here the recklessness of someone whose impulses are alien and external to the Zimbabwean political spirit of reconciliation or accommodation.

Yet the quarrel over Gideon Gono’s position as RBZ governor needn’t have reached this wretched state where the MDC–T now appears at times under pressure to recant as Zanu PF uses Gono as a rallying point to mobilise political forces which had been retired since the signing of the memorandum of understanding in July last year.

There appears to be an unhealthy desire  to try and please external influences.  This often takes the form of a desire for vengeance where even financial fraudsters who would still face trial in hell for their crimes in the 2004 credit crunch now want Gono for lunch.

Two weeks ago I tried to explain this phenomenon in the context of the South African transition from Thabo Mbeki to a “new era” of Jacob Zuma. To achieve this feat, the ANC is supposed to obliterate its legacy of 15 years since 1994 just to bloat out the Mbeki name. What needs to be retained is the legend of Nelson Mandela’s “racial harmony”.

But the same propertied class which supported Mbeki’s removal now faces the dilemma of a Zuma presidency posing a greater threat to its interests if he opts to meet the expectations of his mainly impoverished black electorate.

We all know the source of pressure from Biti’s irritated outburst against the West’s “ahistorical” demands earlier this week. Tsvangirai’s abrasive retort against preoccupation with Gono and Tomana bears the same symptoms of impatience with being pushed around in the name of money.

Biti told the importunate anti-Gono league the man had been “ring-fenced”. But that will not appease them. Biti should never have taken up their fight in the first place. Now they behave exactly as they please –– setting their own benchmarks and terms about the lifting of sanctions and an end to violence. There is nothing Biti can do beyond shadow boxing with Gono.

Yet the MDC could have acted differently to obviate the current credibility crisis in which the leadership must blow hot and cold on the deleterious effects of Western sanctions on the Zimbabwean economy which all along it pretended never existed.

African politicians must learn to appreciate the contribution of those who have made sacrifices in their era before them. That is an invaluable lesson we miss from Western democracies as we pursue personal vendettas.

What Mugabe and Gono needed to leave their respect bases was not public denunciation or threats of execution by a firing squad. They needed an acknowledgement of their contribution from well-meaning Zimbabweans.

Perhaps I was still too young in 1980 but I don’t recall the trial of individuals or businesses who helped the Rhodesian Front bust UN sanctions! Why is it today the MDC-T’s unenviable task to raise a firing squad? Is it being honestly suggested that all Zimbabweans should have waited for the nation to “crash and burn”?

Having acknowledged Gono’s role, the next step was for the MDC to explain how the new recovery thrust called for a new image and a new thinking.

For the MDC to pretend that all those who came before it did nothing but destroy the country was naive.

And those who were promising manna appear to have been hit by a tsunami their economic prophets could not foretell.  America is enough headache for Obama to worry about Zimbabwe!

BY JORAM NYATHI

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